The leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee have reintroduced legislation to extend whistleblower protection for employees who provide information to the Department of Justice related to criminal antitrust violations.
Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the panel’s chairman and ranking member respectively, announced on Tuesday that they are bringing up the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act in the new Congress.
The law, which the Senators also introduced in the last Congress, would prohibit an employer from retaliating against an employee who provides information to the DOJ regarding conduct that violates the criminal antitrust laws. The measure is based on recommendations from a Government Accountability Office report released in July 2011.
That 76-page report began with an explanation by the GAO that it undertook the study because “criminal cartel activity,” or price-fixing, can harm consumers and, by extension, the entire national economy.
The bill allows employees who believe they are in danger of retaliation to file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor, and provides for an employee to be reinstated if the Secretary finds in his or her favor. Leahy and Grassley wrote similar whistleblower statutes as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, and the antitrust measure they have just introduced is modeled in part after those existing protections.
“Congress should encourage employees with information about criminal antitrust activity, such as price fixing, to report that information by offering meaningful protection to those who blow the whistle rather than leaving them vulnerable to reprisals,” Leahy said in a statement. “When the antitrust laws are enforced and competition is preserved, consumers win through greater choices and lower prices. Our bipartisan bill will help to ensure that criminal violations of these laws do not go unreported.”
Grassley lamented that “too often whistleblowers who expose waste, fraud and abuse are treated like second-class citizens. This legislation provides protection from retaliation for private sector employees who are willing to come forward with information about criminal antitrust violations.”